Creativity and innovation uncovered

It was a full house at the recent Digital Leaders North West meeting in Manchester to talk about digital creativity and innovation. We’re all striving to be more creative and innovative, why is that so many of us aren’t – or feel like we aren’t? And what are creativity and innovation anyway? Liz Copeland of Knowledge Hub enlightens us on a really interesting and inspiring meeting…

Digital Leaders North West was delighted to welcome Jamie Whyte from Trafford Innovation Lab and Jon Butler and Dan Bell from Big Brand Ideas to talk about some of their creative and innovative digital work.

Jamie gave us an inspiring and impressive run down of some of the work the Innovation Lab has undertaken since being set up by Trafford Council. Jamie’s focus has been very much on the innovative use of data, creatively presented, to support and influence decision makers, as well as to promote campaigns and raise awareness of local issues across Trafford.

Jon and Dan talked about building brand – and building your digital brand in particular. Gone are the days of polluting search engines to reach the top of the search results – everything you do online needs to be engaging. Creating a valid brand is an essential part of this.

Taking a holistic view on a campaign and integrating the use of digital mechanisms can add a creative and innovative edge to projects that have been originally conceived in a more traditional way.

Defining creativity and innovation

Our discussion began by clarifying the definitions of creativity and innovation, with which we all broadly agreed:


joining 2 ideas together & creating something new; conceiving something new & unusual


conceptualising, discussing, validating & applying ideas; implementing something new


What can we achieve if we become truly creative and innovative with digital?

We heard about so many good examples of creativity and innovation at work. Here are just a few:

  • Collecting, collating and presenting key local data on defibrillator locations in order to allow more specific campaigns to raise money for more in particular areas. This increased the number of defibrillators in the local authority area from 30 to 100.
  • Cervical cancer screening – collating GP data, maps and detailed data about homes where women had been invited to be screened and had not attended enabled a public health campaign that saw screening increase by 10% to 80% across Trafford.
  • Using a clever chord diagram (pictured right), Trafford Council were able to pinpoint where children from all over the borough were going to school very clearly. This very visual use of data highlighted key issues of inequality around the numbers of children from more deprived wards attending grammar schools. This clarity had a big influence on decision makers.
  • When a shopping service for elderly people was under threat, an inexpensive way to replace it was to provide every service user with a tablet and teach them how to use it. That way they were able to order shopping online from the local supermarket and have their weekly shop delivered. The supermarket also had all their delivery employees DBS checked so they are able to go in and put shopping away too.
  • A promotional tourism campaign for an attraction that originally specified the need for a children’s book, was expanded to include an online game and certificate element that encouraged continued participation and engagement long after the book had been read. It is envisaged that this will encourage people to re-visit.


So, how do we encourage creativity and innovation to happen?

There were some clear top tips we could all employ in our organisations that would support a more creative and innovative environment:

  • Allow freedom to be creative and innovative

Creativity and innovation thrive in an environment where individuals are encouraged to think differently and are rewarded for it. A different physical space can often help, as it can move people away from the issues of the day-job and enable them to focus on finding innovative solutions to problems.

  • Create the right headspace

Necessity is the mother of invention. Scarcity of resources, particularly in the public sector, means that people are forced into thinking differently. This shift in mental state can often breed tremendously creative and innovative results.

  • Clear leadership support

With the right leadership, great things can happen. When there’s no senior buy-in to change things, producing something of value can be an uphill struggle. Leaders need to enable and empower employees and encourage them to learn from mistakes – allowing people to fail can be just as valuable as celebrating success.

  • Be brave enough to challenge the status quo

Being creative and innovative can make people uncomfortable, as it often uncovers issues to address. Challenging traditional procurement specifications, methods and ways of thinking are all necessary in order to deliver truly creative and innovative products and services.

  • Commission for outcome, not product

Far too often procurement specifications focus on detailing the end product, rather than describing what needs to be achieved. Innovation and creativity can help solve problems and achieve real outcomes, but it can be stifled if specifications are written as a way to control rather than achieve.


If you’d like to get involved in the conversation about creativity and innovation and find out more about Digital Leaders North West, join our Knowledge Hub group. You’ll also find Jamie Whyte’s presentation slides and details about our next meeting on Tuesday 17th November. We look forward to seeing you.

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